A Jim Thorpe man who witnessed the terrorist attack on New York's Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, was the keynote speaker Tuesday morning for the 9/11 Memorial Service held in the Josiah White Park, Jim Thorpe.
The program began at 8:40 a.m., to commemorate the time when the first plane hit the first of the Twin Towers.
For Steven Sofranko, the time at the podium speaking about the dreadful events he saw unfolding was cathartic to his soul. He finally had the opportunity to thank the men who ran into the towers on 9/11 to save survivors and said said it was the first time he had accepted the opportunity to speak publicly about his experiences on that fateful day.
"I am thankful the firefighters tried to help friends of mine who did not make it out," said Sofranko, with ripples of emotion straining his voice. "I am thankful for New York's bravest and finest currently serving."
Sofranko then thanked the brave men and women of the military, who put their lives on the line.
"When I think of America our freedoms the strength of our character and our willingness to help others at any cost, there is no greater symbol than our service men and women," said Sofranko.
Sofranko said that he has always shown respect to the military, police, firemen and first responders, but until 9/11, he never realized how much he took their role in his life for granted.
"We all can remember where we were when we saw the planes hit the tower," said Sofranko. "Some were at work or at home or maybe in your car listening on the radio. The memories I have forever changed my feelings of what it means to be a first responder or a member of the military."
Sofranko said that one memory he carries with him is the look in the eyes of the firemen who were running into the building as he was walking out.
"None of the endless hours of television coverage is able to capture the honor or the courage I saw that morning," said Sofranko. "They ran into the unknown, risking their lives for the sake of others. Some families lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters while other families, including my own, were lucky enough to get the chance to see one another again."
Henry Desrosiers, director of Veterans Affairs for Carbon County, was master of ceremonies.
Desrosiers thanked everyone for attending the service and gave a special thanks to emergency responders and fellow veterans for honoring the 2,984 innocent men and women who perished 11 years ago. Approximately 100 people, which included the color guard, firing squad and speakers, attended the program.
"This day is not only to honor those who died, but also to honor those who survived and the spirit of those who rushed forward to help," said Desrosiers.
"Eleven years ago, America was thrust into conflict and there were many who were on watch that fateful day. We know that it was a tremendous sense of duty that sent these heroes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and into the face of the terrorists on Flight 93."
Desrosiers continued, "Not only do we honor the innocent victims and those who volunteer to keep us safe, but also the men and women of our Armed Forces. We salute those who stand in harm's way, fighting for ideals of freedom and democracy because they are willing to lay down his or her life to make sure that our principals and ideals endure."
Desrosiers noted that painful memories will always remain as they should, but remembrance stirs everyone to reflect on both the evil and good that emerged on that tragic day and in its aftermath.
"We must never lose our sense of destiny and we must never forget the legacy of this September day," concluded Desrosiers.
Also making remarks were Carbon County Commissioners Tom Gerhard and William O'Gurek.
"We are standing here today side-by-side with thoughts of the World Trade Centers still in our mind," Gerhard said. "We did not let it cripple us. We will never forget."
Gerhard said that the United States learned it had enemies.
"On that day we showed the world that we are one, the United States of America," added Gerhard.
O'Gurek said that everyone in the square were standing together for the special time, and he wished that more Carbon County residents would take part.
"I realize that not everyone can be here," said O'Gurek. "It is those who are here who are representing those who could not be here."
O'Gurek recognized Carbon County judges, first responders, police officers and veterans for showing their respect by attending the program.
"We must never forget the many lives who were lost," said O'Gurek. "For the family and friends who endured that day we realize that acts of evil can happen to good people at any time."
Gilbert Henry, chaplain for the VFW Post 294 Albrightsville and chaplain of American Legion Post 304, Jim Thorpe, gave the invocation and benediction.
Angela Nardini sang the "National Anthem" and "God Bless America." A color guard and firing squad were provided by the Lehighton United Veterans Organization. The bugler was Henry Long, also a member of the Lehighton UVO.